HHS is seeking nominations for its appointments to the Health Information Technology Policy Committee to be created under the IT provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law last month by President Barack Obama.
The HIT Policy Committee will serve as an expanded version of the American Health Information Community, or AHIC, a federally run healthcare IT policy advisory body created by former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt in 2005. At Leavitts insistence, AHIC was replaced just before time ran out on the Bush administration last year by a private-sector organization, the National eHealth Collaborative.
The recovery act, commonly referred to as the stimulus bill, specifically moved to bring that key IT policy advisory committee back under direct federal control.
Under Section 3002 of the recovery act, the new HIT Policy Committee is to have a minimum of 20 members, three of whom are to be appointed by the HHS secretary. Of those three appointments, the law requires the HHS secretary to choose one to represent HHS and one to be a public health official. There are no specifications in the recovery act on the secretarys third pick.
Another four members of the HIT Policy Committee are to be appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate. Another 13 are appointments of the comptroller general, whose spots are to be reserved for representatives of patient or consumer advocacy groups, providers, organized labor, privacy and security interests, vulnerable populations, researchers, payers, HIT vendors, employers, and healthcare quality and reporting experts. Any additional appointments over those 20 mandated in the law are to be made by the president.
HHS also announced it is seeking nominations for membership on the HIT Standards Committee, which also was created under the recovery act. Interested parties might not want to risk a paper cut sending in an application, though.
In a news release, HHS said that: Standards committee members are to be appointed by the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services with the national coordinator taking a leading role.
However, Section 3003 of the recovery act, which is applicable to the standards committee, doesnt say who has the appointment power to populate that committee.
Under a separate section of the law, which covers transitioning to the new committees, the statute apparently provides the secretary with appointment authority, but only to name members of the NeHC en masse to serve as the standards committee.
Section 3008 says nothing under Section 3002 or 3003 shall be construed as prohibiting the National eHealth Collaborative, from modifying its charter, duties, membership, and any other structure or function required to be consistent with section 3002 and 3003 so as to allow the secretary to recognize such AHIC successor as the HIT Policy Committee or the HIT Standards Committee.
By scattering the appointments among members of Congress, the White House and the comptroller generals office, the law virtually makes moot the HHS secretarys power under Section 3008 to name the NeHC as the HIT Policy Committee.
But the odd absence of similar specific appointment authorityor any appointment authority at allin Section 3003 created, in effect, a legislative slam dunk for the appointment of the National eHealth Collaborative to the role as the standards committee, if the secretary so desires.